The day 10 prompt at Poetic Asides had an interesting twist: start with the word “how,” tack on a phrase (or even a syllable or letter), use that as your title, and write your poem. I really wanted to go a different direction with “how” (“Howdy, Pardner,” “Howard Wasn’t Much of a Date”), but I wound up writing a “how to” memory piece. Yes, this really happened:
HOW TO DIG YOURSELF DEEPER
I was twelve, late winter, dinnertime,
when my younger brother rushed from outside
to proclaim the hollow was on fire.
Dad, Mom, my youngest brother, and I
followed him behind the garage
where dead leaves smoldered and baby flames
shinnied up the bark of a skinny tree. I don’t remember
how they put the fire out. I have a blurred recollection
of my parents scurrying, of water coming
from somewhere (maybe Dad dug out the hose
from winter storage), and of the flames
sputtering away with no real damage done
compared to the potential. What I do remember
is my brother owning up
to starting the puny, suspicious fire himself.
On a pile of broken concrete on the wooded slope,
he’d set a match (probably pilfered from the
tin container by the kitchen stove)
to a clutch of test papers with grades and comments
he didn’t want my parents to see. That’s how
you set a fire, allowing charred pages
to waft and spark the waiting brush.
That’s how you make a bad situation worse,
getting twice the whipping
you’d dreaded in the first place.